House plant care practices determine the health of gardens. Gain insight and understanding of plants, their biology and the ideal environments for optimal growth and vibrant plants.
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When ascertaining the needs of a plant, imagine its original environment and attempt to mimic that in the space of your home. Consider the natural habitat and mimic aspects of that habitat in your own home or backyard. For example, tropical plants appreciate humid weather; humidifiers, diffusers, fountains and waterfalls increase humidity. Plants like aloe vera and cacti in desert climates enjoy dry weather with infrequent deep waterings that mimic desert flash floods.
Plants like the Monstera Deliciosa originate from humid tropical environments like rainforests. A domestic Monstera would appreciate frequent heavy waterings, with enough time to dry out before the next watering. Mist the shoots multiple times weekly, keep temperatures warm and allow partial sun.
Group several plants to help maintain the moisture in the air surrounding them with space between foliage. Some plants prefer still air while others thrive with breezes, drafts and winds. Research the specific needs of each plant and how to support growth in your zone.
Consider the structure of the plant, such as the thickness of leaves, which may indicate a higher tolerance to direct sunlight and drier air. The thinner a plant’s leaves, the more efficiently the plant will burn if placed in direct sun for extended periods. Thicker and firmer leaves usually benefit from partial to direct sunlight. In contrast, plants with thinner leaves will usually benefit more from shade and indirect sunlight.
Understanding the root system may give a good idea of watering needs. The soil-to-roots ratio is quite telling, and understanding the root system helps support plant health. Determine the watering frequency for each plant.
Generally, white or light roots are a good sign while black or brown roots that are mushy or slimy could indicate root rot from too wet of soil for extended periods of time. Dried roots that snap apart indicate too infrequent of watering. Container plants that have been in the same pot for years or whose roots have grown into much of the space provided require more frequent watering as less soil is available to hold moisture.
Seedlings generally prefer to have their soil constantly damp as their roots are delicate and small. More mature plants with firmer, established roots manage less frequent watering. Plants in bigger pots with more soil take longer to dry out between waterings, while plants in smaller pots and coarser soil tend to dry out quickly. When the first few inches of soil are dry, it may be time to water again.
Nutrient-dense soil, root health and proper drainage are crucial to growth potential. The wrong soil for a specific plant can end it if not corrected. Consider the plant's natural habitat; desert plants' soil is usually sandy and rocky, so a well-draining soil aerated with a medium such as pumice beads or perlite is best. Certain plants that may be found naturally growing in the muddy waters of a lake or river could benefit from a high-moisture soil that contains silt and clays. When in doubt, most plants can tolerate soil in the middle.
Since all fertilizers may not apply to every plant, be sure to research the best fertilizer for each plant. You may need to use a few fertilizers to feed various plants during their growing season sufficiently. For example, plants susceptible to chemical burns usually suffer from generic fertilizers. Orchids thrive with orchid-specific fertilizers and may struggle with generic alternatives. Even during the resting season, some plants still prefer to be fertilized every one to two months. Look for details such as N-P-K fertilizer levels to match the preferred levels of the plant or plants you are caring for.
Tailor plant care habits to mimic the natural environments of plants, research the needs of each specific plant species and learn more about plant signs of distress. Enhance your space, do good for the environment and improve your health with plants. There are so many benefits to caring for plants.
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